Was the Sangh Parivar’s winning the Gujarat election “a victory for Gujarat’s self-respect” and a fitting reply to those who had “slandered” the state?
In his yatras and then in election meetings, Narendra Modi kept summoning up the image of “five crore Gujaratis” who had been “defamed” across the world. That Gujaratis were exclusively Hindus was made clear by constant references to the 9 per cent Muslims as outsiders, “them”, Miyan Musharraf's terrorists. By painting himself as the sole defender of the beleaguered majority community, Modi captured its vote.
The genius of the “honour of Gujarat” argument is that it deftly places the ordinary, peaceable Hindus of the state into the same logical category as the monsters who committed unspeakable crimes and their instigators, who also made these crimes possible by the use of political power. The guilt of a relatively small pack of criminals is spread widely and thereby dissipated. People who would never dream of killing or raping other humans, are told in perfervid language that they have been accused of just these violations – and believing this, they react with outrage.
What did the “anti-national” and “pseudo-secular” lobby, including portions of the press, publicise about Gujarat? It said that Muslims had been shot, stabbed, raped, burnt alive. It said that the property of Muslims had been systematically destroyed. It said that there was an organised campaign to deprive Muslims of their livelihoods. It said that criminal cases had not been registered, though that is a citizen’s right. It said that efforts at rehabilitation had actually been hampered by the State in Gujarat. It said that Modi, in a show of truly monstrous inhumanity, had described the relief camps for Muslims as breeding factories.
This would have been defamation and slander if these things had never happened. But if they had actually happened, it would be no more than the truth. Defamation and slander involve the telling of lies, not speaking the truth.
But what is the truth? For Modi, the truth is not what scores of independent, objective reporters, voluntary agencies and citizens’ groups have painstakingly documented. He keeps their reports and documentation from his flock, describing them as the lies of “pseudo-secular” people who, for undisclosed motives, spread them within the country and abroad.
This was a carefully crafted exercise of rendering his voters blind and deaf, of making them abandon their power of thought and critical judgement. Across the country the Sangh Parivar has pursued the strategy of rewriting history and redefining the truth in a manner which suits its own malign ends. What Modi did in Gujarat was no different.
Gujarat’s Hindus, criminal elements from among whom had perpetrated unspeakable barbarities, were persuaded that collectively they were the real victims and that Modi alone could defend them against the world’s onslaught.
It was a master stroke, and its tempo never flagged. People never had the time to wonder why a world gone suddenly evil had turned against them. They were made to think of themselves as the whipping boy, and their resentment and self-pity were stoked unceasingly.
The final nail in the coffin of reason was another spurious formulation. Muslims were labelled Pakistanis, which of course made them enemies and, specifically, terrorists. And terrorism was blown up into a titanic threat to Gujarat, the only issue of consequence.
(Dec. 20, 2002)